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160 Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 67 February 1974


Meeting 26 March 1973

PapersJulia Pastrana: The Bearded Ladyby Professor A E W Miles FDS RCS MRCS (Honorary Curator, Odontological Museum, Royal College ofSurgeons ofLondon; Department ofOral Pathology, Dental School, The London Hospital Medical College, Turner Street, London El)Julia Pastrana (1834-1860), variously known as the ape-faced, dog-faced or simply the hairy woman, is commonly referred to as an example of generalized hypertrichosis associated with gingival hyperplasia (Le Double & Houssay 1912, Danforth 1925, Felgenhauer 1969, Colyer & Sprawson 1942). The best known picture of her (Fig 1), in which she is wearing a richly

embroidered dress, of a length that in her time would have been regarded as immodest except in a dancer or circus performer, is said to originate from a photograph in the possession of the Royal Anthropological Institute of London. The name Geo C Wick can be seen close to the lower border of the photograph. A photograph, exactly similar apart from a few details such as the absence of the name Geo C Wick, is in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In the Odontological Museum is a pair of casts of the jaws of Julia Pastrana (Fig 2) which show a few unusually large teeth projecting from greatly thickened and irregular alveolar processes. It is impossible to be certain whether some prominences are projecting tooth cusps or nodules of gingiva. Julia Pastrana enjoyed a good deal of fame in her lifetime, and for many years subsequently. Much has been written about her, though the sources are at present very scattered. My purpose is to bring the information together and to develop the interest that lies in these casts of her mouth, in Julia herself and in this photograph of her. It is possible that these casts were originally part of the museum of the College of Dentists which was founded in 1856 a few weeks after the Odontological Society of London. The College flourished for seven years and then, in 1863, together with its library and museum, which were both considerable, it was absorbed into the Odontological Society. It is recorded in the transactions of the College of Dentists that, on 6 October 1859, A Thompson presented casts of the mouth of Miss Julia Pastrana, the Nondescript. Uncertainty, however, exists about the origin of the casts now extant, because there is also a record (Tomes 1876) that Mr R Hepburn presented a set of such casts to the Society. Furthermore, at one of its meetings in 1878, Mr Weiss mentioned that he had examined the mouth of Julia Pastrana and made the casts of it 'which were now in the Society's museum'.

Fig I Julia Pastrana. From Huitchinson et al. (1900)

Fig 2 Plaster casts of the upper (L) and lower (R)jaws of Julia Pastrana. Odontological Museum specimnen F22.4


Section of Odontology


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0. r n 31 4.

Fig 3 A drawing ofJulia Pastrana.from life by I Konig. From Gartenlaube (1857)

If these are the College of Dentists' casts, they have a connexion with Charles Darwin who makes some reference to them in his 'Variations in Animals and Plants of 1868. He says that Mr Wallace, who was almost certainly the Alfred Russell Wallace who shared with Darwin the discovery of the principle of natural selection, told him that a dentist, Dr Purland, had made casts of her jaws. Dr T Purland was Curator of the College of Dentists Museum in the years before it joined the Odontological Society and it seems likely that Darwin was in error and Purland showed casts that were in the Museum and not ones he had prepared himself. Magitot (1873), the distinguished French anatomist, also mentions having been shown these casts by Dr Purland during a visit to London. Duhousset (1873) mentions having examined casts of her jaws, on the basis of which he recognized that her mouth condition was due to gingival hyperplasia and that she did not possess an excessive number of teeth in double rows, a statement which was perpetuated by Darwin (1868) and even by C S Tomes as late as 1874, though in his textbook of 1876 he gave an accurate account of her condition. Parreidt (1886) confidently states that the only teeth missing from Julia Pastrana's dentition at the age of 20 years, apart from the third molars, were two upper incisors and a lower canine.

Fig 4 Julia Pastrana, as she appeared in life, exhibited in London 1857. A photograph in the F TBuckland collection, Royal College of Surgeons of England. 'She was all womanly: kind, very charitable and accomplished; she possessed a sweet voice & great taste in music; she spoke three languages, and danced with ease, lightness & grace' (Buckland)

Unfortunately, although his paper is otherwise of particular value because illustrated with plaster casts of the dentitions of other well-known hairy persons, his remarks about Julia derive from Magitot (1873) whose account is based upon his interpretation of the cases Dr Purland showed him. As to Julia herself, the following is based mainly on an anonymous account of an interview with her in 1858 in Leipzig published in a family magazine illustrated with a drawing made of her (Fig 3) by an artist, I Konig, who accompanied the interviewer. Julia Pastrana was a Mexican Indian, who, according to her showman husband, was discovered as an infant abandoned in a remote desert region in Central America. She worked as a servant to the governor of a province of Mexico until 1854 when she was 20 years of age (Boase 1897). In that year, she began her career in the United States as part of the travelling freak shows or circuses that were so popular last century. In due course she arrived in Europe and was seen by Frank Buckland in London in 1857. Fig 4 is a photograph, of what appears to be a

162 Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 67 February 1974


drawing or painting, from Frank Buckland's collection in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, annotated 'as she appeared in life, exhibited in London 1857'. In Beigel (1868) this same picture is reproduced with acknowledgments to the Reverend J G Wood. She was 41 ft (1.68 m) in height, weighed about 112 lb (50.8 kg), possessed a womanly figure and disposition, with slender hands and feet and took much care with her toilet and dress. She took particular delight in elaborate decorated coiffures, as is evident in all portraits of her. What seem to be the most reliable accounts say that her whole body was covered with hair to a variable extent, except the palms of her hands and soles of her feet. She could dance a pretty Highland flinghence the common description of her as the Mexican dancer. She could converse in three languages, including Spanish and English, though it is said that she was unable to write. At some time, probably before he brought her to Europe, she married her manager, Mr Lewis B Lent. It appears that the overgrowth of her gum and alveolar process was responsible for her prognathism and what is despribed as simian appearance. For this reason also she is said to have spoken indistinctly, and yet she is said to have sung in Spanish with a sweet mezzo-soprano voice (Duhousset 1873). In Leipzig in 1857 she appeared on the public stage in a play written for her but there was a great outcry on the grounds of bad taste so that the police intervened and stopped the show. Subsequently she was exhibited more discreetly. Saltarino (1895), in his book about circus and freak-show people, says that, although to the public eye she was simply an exploited freak who had learned a few tricks to enhance her public image, she was warm-hearted and intelligent and possessed a gentle disposition. She was very conscious of the barrier that her grotesque appearance placed between her and people at large, depriving her of the warmth and affection that she yearned for. It seems that her husbandmanager did not encourage her to mix in society and so to reveal that she was a freak only in her external appearance. He feared that if she was not kept remote from the public her power to attract paying audiences might be diminished. Saltarino refers to a friendship that grew up between Julia and a Countess Ostern, as testimony of Julia's amiable disposition and ability to converse interestingly, mainly on things she had read about because her first-hand experiences were limited by her condition. Van Hare (1888) refers to having accompanied Barnum when he called upon Julia Pastrana in London. She received them wearing a heavy veil over her face which she would not remove until Mr Lent came in.

from the originals ofFigs 3 & 4

Probably not drawn from life but derived

Fig 5 Julia Pastrana. From Saltarino (1895).

Fig 5 shows a picture of her that was published by Saltarino in 1895. I suspect that it was not drawn or painted from life but derives from the earlier portraits (Figs 3 and 4). The enormous ear seems to derive from the artist's imagination, because it does not appear in the other pictures although it is true that she is recorded as having ears of unusually large size. In Moscow in 1860, when she was 26 years of age, she gave birth to a hairy boy child who died two days later. Three days after this, Julia herself died, surrounded, according to one account, by a crowd of aristocratic sightseers who heard her dying words: 'I die happy; I know I have been loved for myself'. It is sad to reflect that it seems doubtful whether these pathetic words were true, because, according to one version, her husbandmanager, Mr Lent, sold her and her infant to Professor Sukaloff for 500. Professor Sukaloff, who appears to have been Professor of Anatomy in Moscow, embalmed them both, and then the husband, having second thoughts about the commercial possibilities, persuaded the Professo